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How Tim Sherwood nearly took Aston Villa to the Champions League...in FIFA 16

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See how Tim Sherwood and the new-look Aston Villa side fared this season in the virtual world in my FIFA 16 Manager Mode.

Champions League at Villa Park? Timmy almost made it happen in FIFA 16.
Champions League at Villa Park? Timmy almost made it happen in FIFA 16.
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Tim Sherwood may have been sacked recently as the manager of Aston Villa Football Club, but in my virtual reality, the outspoken manager was an outstanding hit at Villa in the 2015-16 Premier League season in my FIFA 16 Manager Mode.

Taking over the role as manager of Aston Villa Football Club in the new FIFA game is an annual challenge I give myself, and this year’s results were a resounding success with Sherwood (but really me) in charge of the club. The defense was phenomenal, memorable goals were scored and Villa Park was rocking for the first time in years as Sherwood prowled the sidelines.

Here is how Tim Sherwood resurrected our great Aston Villa in my FIFA 16 Manager Mode on PS4:

Note: Over the past few seasons of doing this, I’ve become quite good at the game – even while playing on legendary – so be warned: Villa will probably be much better on the pitch in this simulation than in real life. I usually keep playing until I win the Premier League and Champions League with Villa, but this year’s FIFA was pretty crap, so I probably won’t go beyond this one season I played.

PRESEASON

FIFA tried promoting preseason tournaments as some revolutionary addition to this year’s game, but it’s really something that should’ve been in the game years ago, so I wasn’t that impressed. Anyways, I simmed through the "Continental Shield" and eventually lost to Guingamp in the Final after beating Braga, Nice and Bursaspor to get there. Tim appreciated the extra cash we gained.

With the first summer transfer window turned off though due to my own personal preferences, I spent some time looking over the Aston Villa squad report in FIFA and came away both encouraged and worried. And that’s because – just like in real life – Villa’s team in FIFA has no major weak spots and plenty of depth but absolutely no stars either. Jordan Amavi was the only player with a definitive starting spot secured based on overall, and he’s still only 75 at left back.

The midfield positions alone have 11 guys rated in the 70s but nobody in the 80s. No wonder Sherwood struggled in real life in picking a consistent team. The four strikers are essentially the same. The midfield is packed with average players. And while the defenders' ratings are better, it’s also a selection nightmare. Aston Villa’s current squad is very much all quantity, little real quality. Difficult decisions had to be made.

So after quite a bit of contemplating, this is the lineup I chose to begin the season:

AUGUST 2015: 0W-4D-0L, 1GF, 1GA – 4 points, 12th

Yes, Tim tied the first four league matches and first five contests overall in August. After earning a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth, Villa played out three consecutive 0-0s in the Premier League with Manchester United, Crystal Palace and Sunderland. It was an infuriating time as I quickly learned that FIFA 16 might be the worst offline version the game has ever put out while being perhaps the best FIFA ever online. Playing the CPU just resulted in clogged midfields, no scoring chances and unbelievably frustrating matches. As I would learn later in the season, even when the CPU falls behind, they show no urge to attack. It’s all just about midfield possession, and it made me feel like Paul Lambert suddenly became the manager of every team I played in the Premier League.

I did come back from 2-0 down in the second round of the Capital One Cup to draw 2-2 with Arsenal at home and advance on penalties, so at least I had one somewhat exciting match.

SEPTEMBER 2015: 3W-4D-0L, 5GF, 1GA – 13 points, 4th

After the international break, Villa started to actually score some goals while maintaining a solid defense. Switching to a 4-4-2/4-2-4 hybrid formation with Ayew and Gestede or Kozak leading the line helped as Villa won 2-0 at Leicester, 1-0 against West Brom and 1-0 at Liverpool while extending the clean sheet streak to six matches. Bringing Jores Okore into the starting XI and moving Micah Richards to right back certainly allowed us to send more attacking players forward as the back four felt really solid with that alteration.

A goal was conceded, however, in a 4-1 victory against Chesterfield in the League Cup third round. Surely Aston Villa couldn’t make a cup run and Champions League push in my first season?

OCTOBER 2015: 4W-6D-0L, 8GF, 2 GA – 18 points, 5th

Through October, Villa incredibly remained unbeaten in all competitions. Sure, it was utterly boring at times with 10 combined goals scored and allowed in 10 Premier League matches, but we were getting good results! A 2-0 triumph over Stoke was followed by giving up our second league goal of the season in a 1-1 draw at Chelsea before a scoreless tie with Swansea wrapped up the month’s league matches.

October finished with a great 2-1 win at Liverpool in the fifth round of the Capital One Cup, sending us into the quarterfinals as the fall months ended with Tim Sherwood proving himself a managerial genius, Jordan Ayew becoming Aston Villa’s best player and Brad Guzan making great save after great save.

What a time to be alive it was!

NOVEMBER 2015: 6W-7D-1L, 16GF, 6GA – 25 points, 4th

The Aston Villa revival continued into November as, after a typical FIFA 16 0-0 draw at Tottenham, Jack Grealish and Adama Traore led a swashbuckling 4-1 victory over Fabian Delph’s Manchester City at Villa Park in by far the best match of the season. The Snake didn’t even get off the City bench, in case you were wondering. A 3-2 setback at Everton gave Villa its first loss of the season, but a comfortable 2-0 decision against Watford quickly got the claret and blues back on track and kept Villa in the top four heading into the winter.

DECEMBER 2015: 8W-9D-2L, 22GF, 8GA – 33 points, 4th

So around this time, the FIFA 16 patches started coming into play (thank heavens), and the football being played in my Aston Villa manager mode picked up even more.

Anyways, December started with a 1-1 draw at Southampton before Tim Sherwood’s Villa snatched a late 1-0 home win over Premier League leaders Arsenal thanks to a cracking strike from Scott Sinclair. That was followed by a thrilling 4-2 win in extra time against the Baggies in the League Cup Quarterfinals in a match that saw two West Brom goals in the final five minutes of normal time before Sinclair again played the hero by completing his hat trick with this goal to seal it in extra time:

Another 0-0 league draw, at Newcastle, followed, but it was an entertaining match with several chances – not the usual FIFA 16 dross. A 3-0 victory over West Ham on Boxing Day took Villa within two points of league leaders Arsenal, but with squad rotation in full effect around the holiday fixtures, a 2-1 defeat at Norwich dropped high-flying Villa back down to fourth in the league heading into 2016.

JANUARY 2016: 10W-11D-2L, 28GF, 13GA – 41 points, 5th

After a 4-1 victory over Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup Third Round, Gabby Agbonlahor snatched a late winner in a 2-1 league triumph at Sunderland, which was immediately followed by the League Cup semifinals against the Black Cats.

However, the dream start to the season then turned as Sherwood’s side slumped. With another patch coming into play, the CPU on FIFA 16 became even more attacking during this time, and Sunderland pulled off a 2-2 first leg result at Villa Park. A pair of forgettable 1-1 draws in the league against Crystal Palace and Leicester happened during this packed period of fixtures, which culminated with another 1-1 draw at Sunderland that knocked us out of the League Cup on away goals. (I didn't even know the League Cup had away goals, but whatever).

Frustrated as all hell after poor run of results, Ipswich compounded the misery by knocking Villa out of the FA Cup at the end of January in a 1-0 match that barely had the squad’s attention. Thankfully, Agbonlahor did what he normally does in derbies and scored a brace at West Brom in a 2-1 win to end the month.

As for January transfers, I was pretty upset with the lack of innovation FIFA put into perhaps the most important feature of the game mode. After putting a bunch of Villa’s unwanted players up for sale – Philippe Senderos, Kieran Richardson, Charles N’Zogbia and a few others – it was extremely frustrating to get JUST ONE transfer offer for ANY PLAYER during the window: an £8m bid from Bournemouth for Brad Guzan, which I declined after some consideration.

Seriously, I'm trying to sell a third of my squad and I wasn't able to sell anyone? Sort it out, FIFA.

Wanting to just make SOME signings, Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi was purchased from Marseille £12m after Charlie Austin inexplicably decided to join 11th-placed Stoke City instead of Champions League hopefuls Villa, and Leroy Fer did sign from QPR for a £6m bargain. Even on the rest of the market, almost no notable deals occurred, other than Philippe Coutinho going to Juventus (because Liverpool would totally sell him right now). Maybe someday FIFA will have competent transfers.

FEBRUARY 2016: 12W-13D-2L, 36GF, 17GA – 49 points, 4th

Seeing top four slip away, a change of formation to the 5-3-2/3-5-2 was made, which resulted in an immediate boost with revenge on Norwich in a 4-1 victory at VP with an Ayew hat trick, with him scoring again in decent 1-1 draws with Liverpool and West Ham. Batshuayi then scored his first goal for the club to give Villa a key 2-1 victory at Stoke to close a good month back in the top four.

MARCH 2016: 13W-14D-3L, 40GF, 22GA – 53 points, 4th

March was an interesting month that set up a dramatic run-in to the season.

An unstoppable Kevin Mirallas stole Everton a 2-2 draw at Villa Park before Delph scored (ugh) in a 2-0 Manchester City win – just Villa’s third loss of the season. Brad Guzan, who had been very good all season, was also lost for two months in that match with a broken collarbone. A late Ayew winner at Swansea stole a needed 2-1 win to set up early April crunch classes with Tottenham and Chelsea, the two teams just one point behind Villa for fourth place.

APRIL 2016: 13W-16D-5L, 43GF, 27GA – 55 points, 6th

Champions League dreams came crumbling down after a late Harry Kane goal meant Spurs won at Villa 2-1. And Chelsea were heading towards victory until a stoppage time penalty by Sinclair salvaged a 1-1 draw. A must-win match with Bournemouth finished 1-1 to further diminish top four chances, and a 1-0 defeat to Southampton completely ended all hopes and finished Amavi’s season with – get this – torn knee ligaments.

MAY 2016: 14W-16D-8L, 47GF, 33GA – 58 points, 7th

Villa returned to winning ways with a 2-1 win at Watford, but a 2-1 defeat to Newcastle stretched our winless run at home to five matches. Hey, at least FIFA 16 got something realistic. At this point, considerations were made to change up the lineup each match and try out players I hadn’t before much with hopes that maybe we’d miss out on the Europa League – because let's be real, no English club likes that tournament. Manchester United ran out 2-1 winners over us at Old Trafford, and Arsenal celebrated winning the Premier League title with a 1-0 win on the final day at The Emirates.

Here was the final Premier League table (Leicester and Watford finished 19th and 20th, respectively, and Liverpool finished WHERE?):

And here were the final stats for the Aston Villa players who scored a goal (I have to say, Carlos Sanchez might have been my favorite player to use for Villa, while Leandro Bacuna free kicks certainly made a difference):

Overall, it was an undoubtedly positive season for Tim Sherwood and my Aston Villa team. We chased Champions League dreams until the final weeks of the season, never seriously had to worry about relegation, and settled all the new, young players into roles that work with them to help stabilize the club for the future. Not bad!

Hope you enjoyed my full recap of my first FIFA 16 season with Villa. Tell us about your experiences with Villa in FIFA 16 this year below in the comments!